Complaints Add Up Against Online Company's Billing Practice
Posted July 31, 2003 4:31 a.m. EDT
PERSON COUNTY, N.C. — It can be tough to avoid ads for Web sites with adult content. One company is in trouble for billing minors and adults who had no intention of visiting its site.
People who click on the ads have to pay, but that is not always made clear. Judy Poole of Person County found that out the hard way when she received a bill for $181 from Alyon Technologies.
Poole was billed for "Premium Adult Content". Her software is supposed to block those types of sites, so she thought it was a mistake. Then, one of her teenage children admitted he opened one of the ads and repeatedly visited the site. He was not asked for a credit card or other payment information, so he thought it was free. The site charges $4.99 per minute.
Poole is not happy with her son, but said she is really angry with Alyon.
"My child was underage. He went out on their site. They didn't ask for a credit card and I didn't feel like I should pay the bill," Poole said.
When she called Alyon, a representative said she was responsible for the charges. Poole got more bills, made more calls, and got nowhere.
"That just really made me mad," she said, then called Five On Your Side.
Five on Your Side found out Alyon has an unsatisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau and has countless entries on the Internet's "Rip-Off Report".
Federal Trade Commission
North Carolina Attorney General
Roy Cooper filed suit.
"Clearly what they are doing is tricking consumers," Cooper said.
The state Attorney General's Office has 70 complaints against the company. Some complaints involve minors; others are from people who did not visit the sites. They were billed for closing the pop-ups.
"Everybody hates pop-ups anyway, but when they're so intrusive that when you try to click them away and they start charging you for something, that's outrageous behavior that needs to be stopped," Cooper said.
Five On Your Side called Alyon. The company agreed to drop Poole's charges if she provided proof her son is a minor. Poole sent proof and the charges were dropped.
Alyon said a letter confirming the zero balance is on the way to Poole.